Update: Everyone has their own "optimal" configuration based on what they think is important, superfluous, or just plain irrelevant, so bear that in mind -- I'd never dogmatize about which configuration is "best," because that's something only each one of you can determine.
And of course a chart like this doesn't say a thing about the subjective value of exclusives like a Halo or a Metal Gear Solid 4, as well as whose online or interface schemas deliver more bang for your buck. Some people would gladly pay more or less for access to a given franchise, or to work within the strictures of one platform's architecture versus another's.
Blurry snaps of sales flyers are fanning speculation that come September 7, Microsoft will drop the price of all three Xbox 360 models by at least fifty bucks a piece. From top to bottom, the Xbox 360 family currently ranges from $450 to $280 in variants ranging from a high-end "Elite" model with a 120GB hard drive down to an entry-level "Arcade" without a hard drive or high-definition video cables.
Ars Technica started a rumor in early August suggesting the 360 would shed 12 to 29 percent of its retail sales cost in early September. The rumor gained some credibility in recent weeks as various blogs snapped pics of sales flyers from Best Buy to Kmart to Radio Shack showing the same thing: price drops a-comin' across the board.
Assuming the rumor is true, and it looks likely to be, how do the new numbers affect the bottom line when you plug them into an accessory and services lineup?
Let's see...chart can be seen below.
Current pricing in black, new rumored pricing in red.
What's changed since I ran this comparison back in early July?
1. Microsoft and Sony added new hard drives to a few models. The PS3 jumped from 40GB to 80GB, and the Xbox 360 "Premium" hopped from 20GB to 60GB. Also: The 20GB hard drive upgrade went away, so irrespective of the used market, the only hard drive upgrade Microsoft currently sells is the $180 120GB model.
2. Sony's added its DualShock 3 (force-feedback) controller to the PS3 (it's $55 standalone). Alas, the company still refuses to slip either a component or HDMI cable into the system. A Sony HDMI cable will set you back upwards of $60, though you can pick one up from a third party vendor for a fraction of that cost. you shouldn't add the cost of both component and HDMI, since you'll pick one or the other, making the PS3's high-def cable delta (shopping frugally) about $20. Same for the Xbox 360 "Arcade."
3. Sony has Blu-ray and movie downloads, Microsoft has movie downloads. A standalone Blu-ray player baselines in the $300 range. Make of that what you will.
4. Sony just announced a 160GB version of the PS3 at GCDC in Leipzig for $500, bundled with the terrific albeit pithy Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (a $60 value) as well as a voucher for Idol Minds' ragdoll-chaotic PAIN (a $10 value).
1. Microsoft's still outrageously overpriced in terms of upgrade costs if you plan to buy all at once. The notion that customers should pay $180 for 120GB when you can get a 250GB 2.5" SATA hard drive for $130 is ridiculous. So is paying a hundred bucks for an 802.11g USB wireless network adapter worth less than half that in the form of a PC USB key. The upside? Microsoft's cheaper up front, and gives you upgrade options over time, where Sony's an all or nothing proposition.
2. Still no PS2 backward compatibility. Shame on Sony for not including this just to sell more PS2s and clutter up entertainment centers.
3. The best deal going is probably the Xbox 360 "Premium," which manages to be $20 cheaper than the PS3, $100 cheaper than a fully configured "Elite," and a whopping $120 cheaper than the "Arcade." Word to the wise, the "Arcade" is only a good deal if you plan to never, ever upgrade anything. More PlayStation 3 News...